19-year-old attacking midfielder Ajdin Hrustic has secured his first professional senior contract with Dutch Eredivisie club FC Groningen.
Originally from Melbourne, the youngster penned a three-year deal with the Dutch Cup winners after spending the last season in their reserves.
“The contract I have signed with the club is my first senior-team professional contract so as you can imagine I’m happy with it and excited about what the future holds,” Hrustic said.
“When the chance to sign the deal came up, I could not say no as the opportunity of playing professionally for a top club in the Netherlands who are playing Europa League this season is something I have always desired.”
Hrustic has spent the past five years in Europe, playing in England, Austria and Germany, before finally settling in the Netherlands after joining Groningen last year.
After moving with his family to England in 2010, the then 14-year-old spent a season in the youth ranks of two-time European champions Nottingham Forest.
His next move was to Vienna, where he spent two years at powerhouse Austria Vienna, before sealing a dream move to German heavyweights Schalke in 2013.
The former South Melbourne junior spent a season at Gelsenkirchen, where he rubbed shoulders with some of Germany’s most promising youngsters, including German international Max Meyer.
“Since 2010 I have had plenty of ups and also some downs, here in Europe but I am just happy to be settled at Groningen at the moment,” he said.
“I played there alongside Max Meyer just before he broke into the Schalke first team and he is a really good friend of mine as we still keep in touch.
“Obviously I would love to emulate some of his achievements in the next coming years.”
A move across the border to Groningen followed, where the youngster impressed coaches at the club’s reserve side, before agreeing a deal with his employers last week that seals his opportunity in the senior-set up.
Despite his impressive youth career, Hrustic has not been capped by the Young Socceroos in recent years.
The 19-year-old began his junior career at Heatherton United, before moving to South Melbourne at the age of 12.
In 2009 he represented Victoria in the FFA National Junior Championships, featuring alongside current Melbourne Victory and City youth players Kieran Dover, Milos Ridesic, John Maclean, Luke Gallo and Harris Stamboulidis.
His form at the tournament saw him selected for a one-off Australia Under-13 side with the likes of former Melbourne Victory midfielder Jordan Brown and Bentleigh Greens midfielder Dimitar Mitkov.
Due to his heritage, Hrustic is eligible to represent Australia, Romania or Bosnia-Herzegovina, and admitted that there’s been contact from the latter, but none from his home country.
“There has been interest from Bosnian officials to represent their youth sides but unfortunately I do not currently have a Bosnian passport, while there has been no interest from the FFA since I moved to Europe,” he said.
For now, Hrustic is focused on breaking into the Groningen starting 11 and gaining game time in the Dutch Eredivisie, which would cap off five years of hard work and persistence in Europe, an impressive feat for a player first spotted roaming around the pitch at Heatherton United as a five year old.